Chrome

Review

posted 11/24/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PC
It’s amazing how little we value something until it’s entirely too late. In today’s world we put heavy value on diamonds, gold, rubies, silver and platinum because they’re relatively scarce. Who’d have thunk that in the future the most valuable item would be, of all things, chrome. That’s right, make sure to hold on to those old Chevelles because your grandchildren will be able to make a pretty penny off of the five tons of chrome that it has on its bumpers. Remember all those guys you used to make fun of for putting chrome on their engine blocks? Well they just might be the next Bill Gates, well in Strategy First and Techland’s tomorrow that is.

You play the role of Bolt Logan (no, seriously), a do-good mercenary who is notorious for his 100 percent success rate. In the beginning of the game you’re sent out on a routine mission when suddenly you’re betrayed by your partner and left for dead. After fighting your way to safety and making a pact with a mysterious leotard-clad blond, you’ll be thrust onto the path of revenge. It’s a very simple introduction that serves as a good device for plenty of asskicking. Besides, since when did shooters need to have good storylines? I don’t need a reason to kill endless hordes of mindless goons, just saddle me with a decent weapon, copious amounts of ammo and my eyes will light up like a little kid on Christmas Eve.

Our lead character is voiced by the same man responsible for the lead character of Unreal II so you can expect the cheese factor to be on extra high here. I was expecting some corny dialogue but this was much more than I bargained for. You’ll get lines like “There’s no escape even if you propose a temporary alliance with ten combat droids.” Who the HELL talks like that? Complicating this is the fact that the game becomes a bit too cutscene heavy, forcing you to sit down and watch the action as opposed to partaking in it. Again, the storyline isn’t all that bad but some of the dialogue could provide enough cheese to feed a Frenchman for weeks.

But that’s not where Chrome fails, the storyline is decent enough, but the action just doesn’t hold up when compared with today’s shooters. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the weapons and the arsenal has a very satisfying feel to it, but some of the AI and mission structure really bring this one down. Chrome lacks balance between its missions; some will lead you into frantic non-stop gunfights while others will have you trudging long distances for no apparent reason.

Instead of going for some real-world weapons the designers opted for a series of generic look alikes that convey the same message. You have your requisite sniper rifle, shotgun, assault rifle, sub-machine gun and grenades. Combat really isn’t all that bad but the settings in which these battles take place most certainly are.

It’s painfully difficult to make out enemies, making even harder to hit. At first I thought this was attributed to the game’s large outdoor environments but I still ran into the same problems in close quarters. The main problem is that the enemies are too dark and too small, it’s almost impossible to see them. Many times I ran right by a guard, not knowing that he was there until he unloaded a whole clip into me. Other games have this problem at times but they counteract it by giving the player an artificial means of visual enhancement. In Call of Duty bringing the sights up to your eyes gives you a minor zoom but in Chrome there’s no such advantage. Games like Unreal II didn’t need this because the enemy designs were so vibrant and the action was less than realistic, in Chrome you can die in a matter of seconds. Instead you’re left looking for needles in haystacks, needles with guns and grenades. Things get a little better via some Deus Ex-esque implants that you’ll acquire later on in the game. Even with them, spotting your enemies is absurdly difficult.

To compound this enemies have deadly-wicked aim, I’m talking twice as good as the Nazis in Return to Castle Wolfenstein accuracy. By the time you’ve spotted an enemy you can pretty much expect to lose a small chunk of health. What really makes this frustrating is that the enemy AI is pretty hit or miss for the most part. Sometimes they’re excellent marksmen who have impeccable aim while the next moment they’re bumbling morons that you can just run past without eliciting a gunshot or a yell. It’s especially frustrating after you reload a save game and found that the guy who took you out in two seconds is now standing still and acting as a human bullet magnet.

Strategy First bills Chrome as a "tactical FPS" but few, if any, elements that compose this genre are present here. There are no squadmates, no planning phases, no commands, no tactical maps and no tactics to be found. Instead the game tries to employ other elements that pass as tactics such as terrain and elevation differences. There are some serious flaws in this though as the game tries to rationalize its large outdoor environments for strategic purposes. It's like calling HALO a strategic shooter when we all know that it's a straight-up FPS. Sure, elevation differences can give you the advantage but that's true in most FPS titles. When you see the words "tactical FPS" don't conjure up visions of Rainbow Six or Hidden & Dangerous 2 in your head because you're in for a huge disappointment.
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